Surgery Stupidity and Real Life Writing

June at Inkreadable heralds the yearly summer slow down. My private clients are slowly dwindling. I had my last lesson in the current package with Simon, my Dutch student. He is going to take a hiatus until September and we will likely begin, at the very least online as I will be in Greece at that time. I anticipate that George and Jerry will continue with me through the summer and possibly increase their weekly lessons a bit. My Greek lessons are going to wind down on 24 June as my student is going to America. I think that Karolina will stay with me through the summer as she is training for the next big thing in her career path. So it will be Business English for her all the way.

Over at the English Center, I came home from a lovely picnic in the park on Sunday evening, to the rather unpleasant news that Lily would like to switch teachers so that she can gain experience listening to a British English teacher. That means that I lose out on two lessons with her. She asked me if she should contact English center, but I told her that I would. English language teaching on some level, is an exercise in cover your ass. The CYA principle has been entrenched to me from the beginning of my tenure at VIPKid, which taught me that you need to always have a screenshot of anything you were doing so the teacher would not be blamed. However, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. VIPKid now always blames the teacher. Needless to say, I have learned my lesson. I sent an email to the English Center telling them the situation so that there would be no misunderstanding that it was my fault that Lili wants another teacher. I also took the precaution of telling Brenda in person yesterday as well. I do not like when this happens however, because there’s always the chance that I will still look bad no matter what precautions I actually take.

Over in VIPKid world, the summer is fast approaching and that means possibly more lessons for me. The kids will be on summer break And will have more time. I am not sure how that will translate when I’m away in Greece in late August to mid September but we will have to see how that plays out. It is possible that I will only do short notice. But I’m also vacillating about that because who knows if that will even work.

At the Conversation Playground, we have our sixth lesson of the nine lesson series later today. Generally it keeps going well, but I have been thinking about if I have to facilitate the class by myself with no help would I be able to do it? After all, in primary schools across the Netherlands, teachers have assistants to help them in the class. In the United States, I am not sure that is the case. But I was never a teacher in the US. I am, needless to say, a little leery. But I will do my utmost to facilitate more classes within Amsterdam so that I can get some work from Conversation Playground as well next academic year.

With Despina in Greece on vacation until September, Lexis Amsterdam is not in the pipeline. At least in terms of the group classes that we were planning earlier this year. I am hopeful that they will kick up into gear when I am in Greece and be online for the foreseeable future. In July, I will have the possibility of a Japanese student who lives in Poland. Apparently, he needs English lessons for his work, (though I don’t know why he doesn’t need Polish), and as it will be through his company, I anticipate a greater than private rate salary for this client. Fingers crossed that I get it, I could use the work.

As I was writing this post, dear readers, I got a phone call from the hospital about my surgery. I went through the questions I had with them and it turns out that I can do nothing for the four weeks after the surgery. No exercise at the gym. No heavy lifting of any kind and no sudden movements. Apparently even the elliptical is too intense. I got off the phone with the hospital and was heading to a class in Amstelveen, when the doctor’s office called again. I struggled to understand as they spoke in Dutch but then got the gist. My surgery was postponed to the following week. A week where I had scheduled classes on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I had taken this week off for the surgery. Now I have classes on the days that I should have off, and I am stuck not working on the days I should be working. To say that I am pissed is an understatement. My only recourse will be to see if the doctor’s office will give me a letter that I can give to VIPKid so that I can get a soft cancellation from the company so that it doesn’t count against my record. The problem is that the doctor my not give me the letter, because her in the Netherlands they don’t need to do things like that because they are civilized. Unlike VIPKid and their draconian cancelation policy. If it doesn’t work then I will have to.

Last Thursday, in lieu of an online session, the writers group met in real life in the park. It was a wonderful meeting, even if not very much writing got done. It was nice to be outside with real people at least talking about writing. Unfortunately, the Sunday meeting also went live and so I was not able to attend as I was busy teaching. The (relative) bright side of surgery being postponed is that I can go to an in real life writer’s group this Thursday that we are planning at the central library in Amsterdam.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always there is more to come.

Amstelveen Annals and An Era’s End

It seems, dear reader, that here at Inkreadable, the fourth time‘s the charm. So it proved with our fourth class for the Conversation Playground course. I had a feeling like I wasn’t facilitating the classes enough in the first few lessons. That changed last week. I felt a lot more confident about how to deliver instructions and how to facilitate the games. It seems that puzzle games and mystery games work really well for this bunch of kids. I also focused on time management which helped a lot. We also got some positive feedback from one of the teachers at the school. She actually participated in a little bit in the first of the icebreakers. I have a feeling that we will be going back to the school in September. Well, they will. I am not sure I will be able to do that kind of traveling. I am hopeful that there will be more opportunities to do this kind of work in Amsterdam, closer to where I live. Last week, I mentioned that one of the kids was struggling in the class. This past week he seemed to have a really good time and did a better job with the English, but we also offered his mom private lessons to see if we can improve his English and she seems interested. Conversation Playground is making her an offer of a three hour package, so we’ll see what happens with that as well. It’s a little bit less money for me as I’ll still be making €40 an hour but travel is not included. Still, it’s 100 times better than VIPKid even with the travel.

The English Center Has gone back to full strength with the return of Claudia from vacation. I was able to give her a lesson this past Thursday. I’m really struggling to try and find things to teach her, but I am very pleased with her improvement. She has been sending me her own writing for her work and she’s making very few mistakes. It was a touching reunion with my client Freek who I hadn’t seen in over a year. We have 10 classes that we need to finish up. It looks like it’s going to be a bit of an uphill battle because he’s forgotten most of his English. Luckily it is conversational and travel English that he can use in Turkey when he visits his daughter and grandchildren. So it shouldn’t be too hard to find things that interest him. Lily continues to be a fun student and seems to be enjoying her lessons. She too is improving, but I have a feeling she will also backslide because she is not using her English outside of our lessons. She is watching English language TV series online and that seems to be helping. I have told her to put on the English subtitles because that will also help her to improve her listening skills. To all of my students, except for Claudia, I am recommending finding an English language speaking group to practice with. There are a ton of them online. It looks like I will be doing some of the SEO writing for the English Center. It’ll be a learning process as I don’t do too much of it now, but it’s a skill that I’m looking forward to because I can use it in other places.

My private students continue to be consistent. My Dutch private student is going to buy another package and we will have to see how it’s going to be structured. We have been online for the last few lessons. If we continue online then, I see no reason why we can’t meet via Zoom or Skype while I am away in Greece. The same is true of my student that is learning Greek as well as Karolina and George and Jerry. In addition, I may add a private student from one of my Chinese kids who wants to leave VIPKid. We still have a few lessons to go on VIPKid, so it’ll be a few months.

In other news, the Washington Creative writers group opted to leave meetup. It was with a heavy heart that I went and disbanded the group. It’s not that they don’t exist, but rather t they have changed their existence as a result of Covid and will probably be virtual from here on out. For me it was bittersweet, to see the growth and the change. But also, I felt as if I’ve lost something. Maybe it’s my last link to my life in DC. Given that the group does not want to be on meetup anymore, I had to pose it to the Amsterdam group whether we want to continue and take over that slack. I must say, they’re not being very helpful. Or very decisive. Needless to say I didn’t get very much Writing done this week And with surgery looming, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to. I also managed to get my two appointments for the vaccination for Covid which I’m quite excited about. It means that life for me might go back to normal.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Preply Pause an Interesting interactions

I am not sure if I told you dear reader, but with the absence of Rose on my schedule at Preply, I have put my account on hold as there isn’t much interest for my style of teaching. I like my lessons to be me teaching certainly, but I also like there to be a language exchange. Specifically, I believe that if we can find commonalities in language, then we connect our own language to the one we are learning, and that makes it easier to learn. We also connect to each other, I am a member of The Preply Tutor Facebook group, and it seems that I am not the only one having trouble. I see lots of posts about how people have been on this site for months and have gotten nothing. So I figured, since Lingueo, English Center, The Conversation playground and VIPKid seem to be giving me more work, I might as well focus on them. VIPKid continues much the same as before, with the added stressor of the Chinese government again looking at online and off-line educational tutoring and making major changes. I am not sure that platforms like VIPKid are going to be long for the world in the format that they are now. It seems more and more than they’re trying to get away from live interactions with teachers and instead teach English through videos and artificial intelligence. Lingueo this month was a one off and I had one student for two hours. While we connected, I am not sure that he will book me again because his schedule may not allow for it. He waited until the last minute to complete his 20 hours of lessons and must finish them by 1 June. Last I checked he had six hours to go. None of them are with me.

Over at the English Center things seem to be picking up. And while I was not able to add a student to my roster from them, they seem to be doing a lot more students who need creative writing so that will be something that I would particularly interested in pursuing in the future. My personal schedule with English center is fairly slow as I only have Lili once a week and my client Claudia who is currently on vacation in the Dutch Caribbean. She comes back 1 June and I hope that we will be able to schedule lessons shortly there after. Yesterday, I had my first class in a while at the Amstelveen location with Freek who has been my client since 2019. We hadn’t seen each other in a year and a half however, because he is older and was afraid of the virus but also his company who is paying for his lesson, would not let him do it online for security reasons. I also spoke to Brenda, the owner of the English Center who made me an interesting offer. She has asked me to write their blog posts and edit some of their materials. She asked me what I would charge, and I’m charging her what I am charging Lexis Amsterdam which is €25 an hour. I suppose it’s a little lower than the normal, but because I don’t have that much experience I don’t want to over charge.

I had a Conversation Playground heart attack this past week. Amardip picked me up, and on the phone told me to remind him to tell me what one of the kids mother said to explain his absence at the lessons. I had a very fraught couple of hours because I thought I had done something. But I needn’t have worried. Apparently, when she asked him how he felt about the lessons he said he felt sad. So she asked us to be more encouraging with her son. That is all well and good with it student does not have the level of the other kids. He is actually well behind. While the other kids may be a solid A2-B1, this little boy is very much an A0-A1. He has a little bit of an understanding of English and can use it in simple sentences but he has nowhere near the complexity of some of the other students. I know that Amardip was agonizing over how to talk to the parents about that. I do find that it’s better to be a bit more direct, at least that’s with the Chinese parents. I am not so sure about Dutch parents as Dutch culture is direct towards you but is less so when the directness is being thrown to them. I’ll find out later what Amardip decided to do. The classes are going well, but I understand that Amardip and I have different ways of thinking about games. For me, a game is anything that you can use to get the students using the language that you need them to practice. For Amardip, a game is some thing that you make up on your own with cards and bells and whistles. Such was the case with the game I came up with that Amardip had to gameify more . It could’ve been a miscommunication, but I find it very difficult and have decided to let him plan all the games and if he wants my assistance he can ask.

I had my last lesson with Alena on Thursday this week. I am going to miss our lessons. They are extremely fun but I get the sense that she’s not in a place to be able to take more English lessons at this time. She did say that she would be happy to write a review for me and would definitely let me know if she wanted more English lessons in the future. In the meantime, I think I’ve made a friend and with things opening up next week, I think I’ll get to see her socially. My project for the next couple of weeks is figuring out how my students can leave me reviews on Google.

With my surgery and multiple follow up appointments scheduled for June and July, I am also looking forward to about a week’s worth of not doing very much at all. I am a little concerned about the Conversation Playground because it tends to be more active and the Doctors don’t want you to bend or do anything strenuous for the first couple of days. Luckily the surgery is on a Wednesday and so that gives me six days to heal. I am going to take the week off from VIPKid just to be safe.

The vaccinations here in the Netherlands have picked up speed and my birth year is now open to be vaccinated. I have had a devil of a time trying to find a time because of the surgery but also because the location of the vaccination is in the middle of nowhere. The options that I have been given are at least an hour commute from where I live. I’m not sure why they make it so difficult if they do. On Saturday, I had to call them to make the appointment and that was a laugh riot. Me trying to speak in Dutch I feel very unconfident about the language. But at least I didn’t get hung up on. I have heard that happening to other Non-Dutch speakers.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Lingueo Limbo and Daunting Doubt

My classes with Lingueo have been over since 23 April when I had my last class with Delphine. I told you in my last post that I had been scheduled for a client with them starting on 3 May but could not do that lesson because I was already scheduled to work for VIPKid and the following week I was not able to because I was away. On Friday, I got a one-off lesson with a student for two hours of conversation. For the first time ever in my teaching career, I did not prep for this lesson. The lesson was scheduled from 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock on Friday. I therefore had to shuffle a planned Greek lesson with Odhran. The student, whose name is Nicola, called me and asked if we could do an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. That actually worked better for me and I was able to contact Odhran’s mom and schedule a Greek lesson for Friday. Lingueo in many ways is a wonderful platform because they pay you money in euros without taking commission and there is no Walmart sweepstakes atmosphere like there is at VIPKid, or a ridiculous commission structure as there is with Preply. They give the courses that they offer names, like Lilate preparation or oral preparation, but it is not clear what that means. When I first started with the company I researched a bit and it turns out that Lilate is an English competency exam given by the French government. I could not find any preparation materials online. So it has been a struggle to figure out lessons for my Lingueo students since I started with the company. Friday was no exception as I was racking my brain to figure out what I would teach Nicola. But winging it turned out to be a good strategy at least for him. While we had a great time talking, across all kinds of topics but mostly corona procedures throughout Europe. I am not sure that I am going to see him again, though. I looked at his information and he has five different teachers including me. He has had eight out of 20 hours of lessons, two of which were with me. He needs to finish these hours by 1 June. I’m not sure why he waited till the last minute to get started, but if it’s any indication from his schedule and the fact that he was 15 minutes late the first and And second hour, as well as having to leave in the middle of the second hour to take a phone call, it seems that his schedule is not very flexible. He works for Disney and it seems that Disney is starting to hop. As of this writing, I am back to Lingueo limbo with no students on the schedule. After the fiasco with the student who canceled all lessons with me, I updated my schedule to reflect that I could work mornings and afternoons after three, leaving the PPT hours for VIPKid.

Speaking of VIPKid, my strategy to only open short notice on the weekends and short notice for the hours 10 to 12 my time, partially works. While I am getting no short notice bookings during the week, I am getting a few short notice trials on the weekend. Such was the case on Saturday when I had a level seven at 12:30 PM trial and a short notice trial 2 PM. I’ve been thinking about my schedule on VIPKid and I wonder if my schedule is low not just because I am a highly paid teacher (at least on their scale), but also because most of my students are in the higher levels, and so don’t have time to take VIPKid anymore. The company has started asking for referrals for teachers as you know from last weeks post. I wish they would be as aggressive about marketing to actual paying customers as they are asking teachers to recruit for them. It used to be when you recruited you got good money to refer and people made sideline businesses out of that. Now they give you tokens to refer. I’ve already told VIPKid what I think of this strategy, and in no uncertain terms a couple weeks ago when they had another survey. Needless to say I will not be referring.

Over at the Conversation Playground, class three marked the first class that I actually planned part of myself. I continue to feel that teaching kids on a regular basis is not for me. I am very specifically a teacher of English as a foreign language and that is what I wish to remain. What this means is that my schedule will continue to be inconsistent. Things I learned from the last class: giving instructions in a clear concise manner is the most important thing you can do in the classroom. Both instruction checking questions and concept checking questions are important. I remember from my days of CELTA back in 2016, that that was something that was really difficult for me. My solution for the problem was to go back and look at my textbooks and see how they are formulated and how to ask them. I think I’m gonna have to do some memorizing. The more I go into the classroom with the kids in Amstelveen however, The more comfortable I get and that can only lead to good things. Because there will be more work. I connected my English Center student with the Conversation Playground to see if they could jointly set up classes at her son’s school. We’ll see if that works out.

I am experiencing a slow down in writing, chiefly because I’m having a hard time figuring out if I changed a plot point throughout the book or not. I’ll explain. I had my main characters be given a particular magical item that I thought would come useful in the book. It turns out that it’s not and I had to change it for something else. I spent the last Thursday night wondering if I had done that completely throughout the book. It is not a place I like to be. I do not like doubting that I’ve done everything I need to do. I think this feeling is going to stick with me for a while and I may just have to read the book over again. From the beginning. Another daunting task. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a pantser. But the thought of outlining is even more daunting.

In other news, my cataract surgery has been scheduled for 16 June. It’s a Wednesday so I had to cancel all of my classes that day as well as block off a week for VIPKid as I don’t know about the recovery time from cataract surgery. I have been told at the recovery is quick, but I’m not sure if all of those people who have had cataract surgery were spending as much time online at the time of their surgery, as we have been in the last year and a half. Or I should say as I have been over the last five years. I am a little bit scared, OK terrified, but I’m trying not to think about it. Instead I’m trying to distract myself with lesson planning, an imminent return to the gym, and rebuilding my iTunes music collection as all of my non-purchased items have disappeared. Of course I got rid of all of the CDs from which I built my collection 11 years ago. To say that I was pissed is an understatement.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Schedule Slowdown and Marvelous Middelburg

This week at Inkreadable, dear reader, may be a prelude to what is to come. I think my summer is going to be quite slow if this week is any indication. It looks like the summer courses at Lexis Amsterdam or not going go through so that means a start date and end of September. Claudia is away until at least 1 June, and Lili the other one has nine hours left on a 12 hour package of which two are to be in person. My third English center client starts on 31 May and I’m a little worried because we have 11 classes left in the package and I’m not sure that we’ll be able to finish before I leave for Greece in August. My Dutch private client will go on hiatus for the summer as well. I will probably suggest that we do online lessons while I am in Greece as that will give me a source of income. I will likely continue with Karolina and the kids in China over the summer. My Lingueo client cancelled all of her slots with me so that was a bust.

Last Tuesday I had my first Class at the school in Amstelveen and it went pretty well. The owner of the company isn’t a teacher but his definitely picked up a few pointers since the last time I was in a classroom with him. We played three games and it took me about an hour to figure out who is the class clown, who needs extra help, and who can help me run the class when the conversation playground owner is not available. I’m impressed that I was able to figure it out within the first hour. I also discovered that to get the classes attention rapping on the whiteboard and saying “this is not my circus“ and having the kids respond “we are not your monkeys” works a treat. I enjoyed myself immensely, but it became more and more clear to me that would never make a good full-time school teacher. More adult classes with more regularity is definitely my jam. Still any experience in teaching is good and I would not say no to doing more of these after school teaching through game sessions, especially if they are more closely located to Amsterdam as the commute is both expensive and annoying. You basically travel three hours round-trip for an hour class.

In other news, Jasper and I went to a Middelburg in the province of Zealand this weekend. We have both agreed that these trips are quite hard to do without a car unless you stay in the city center. Our hotel was 3 km from the city center, about a 35 minute walk through suburbia. I was consistently reminded why I am a city person and refuse to live out in the sticks. Of course, Jasper’s running joke for the weekend was that if you won the lottery on Friday we would move to Middleburg. I find that if I can smile and nod and pretend that Jasper is always right lots of headaches are avoided. He can continue in his delusional state that winning the lottery is enough of a retirement plan, but I am American and don’t have the European safety net to count on. Middelburg is a lovely town, but vacationing in the time of Covid is surreal an a bit dystopian. We ate breakfast and dinner in our room which would have been fine except we also had to go pick it up ourselves, and not the most environmentally friendly what with everything individually wrapped. Here are some pictures of our trip:

Slavery Monument

Jasper is actually striking a candid pose in the the church photo. Can you spot him? I didn’t realize that I took a picture of him until I started posting them here. To me the church looks less like a church and more like the Bodleian library at Oxford.

In other news, the first of the quarterly MRIs came back clear: no new lesions and no change in the existing ones. I was quite happy with the good news but I do wish that this was MRI four of four and not one of four. Jasper claims that MRIs are fun. This is the first time that he has been walking next to me as I write my blog posts on the go and he’s contributing. I kind of wish he would stop. MRIs are not fun and while they are not this horrible terrible thing that people make them out to be, wearing wax earplugs and headphones and trying to listen to music while in the machine can prove to be a challenge. Because, while Jasper claims that you can go to sleep in an MRI, the reality is quite different there is no sleep to be had an MRI.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Teaching Trenches and a Writing Rollercoaster

This week at Inkreadable, dear reader, really tested my mettle. Most of the time I can fairly easily adapt between levels. This includes subtle shifts in level like B1 To B2, but also more extreme shifts like B1 to C1. This week however, that proved a little bit more challenging then I had anticipated, and I felt that across all of my platforms through the week.

Initially, I had thought that my most difficult transition lessons would be for The English Center. At least, that’s how the first part of the week shaped up. I have two students with them and one is a very solid B2, and the other is off the charts good at English. Her understanding and ability to do the work is beyond the C level. That’s not to say that she doesn’t struggle a little bit, but in most of the exercises that we’ve been doing, she has gotten nearly everything right. I am very lucky that she is humorous and can handle my self-deprecating humor, as I got into our second lesson and told her flat out that she was my most challenging student and that I had to ask for help from even more experienced teachers than I was. She was able to see the humor and laughed right along with me which was great. But the fact remains that trying to find lessons that are challenging enough for Claudia is a challenge all its own. I have therefore been focusing on the academic lessons and using a site called English for Academic Purposes. That seems to be working fairly well but still seems to be quite easy. Since this is a writing class, I feel a bit guilty that we haven’t actually done very much writing in the lesson and she hasn’t given me any writing Samples of her own to take a look at. With Lily, my other English Center client, it’s not so much that finding lessons that are difficult. Rather, it is making sure that the lessons are topics that she finds interesting because she bores easily. I also find myself worried that I will be a little bit too academic for Lily and not academic enough for Claudia. But neither of them have complained to the English Center so I think I am OK thus far.

This past week is also a challenge over at VIPKid. I typically open Prime Prime Time on Saturdays, which means 12-3 PM CET. While I thought that the classes for Claudia are hard, they’re nothing compared to the VIPKid writing lessons. They are an hour long and you’re supposed to go over a piece of writing that is submitted by the student. The assignment for this kid was to write a mini biography. And he chose to write about a Track Star in China. The biggest problem with this was that he literally wrote a half a sentence that I had to then spend an hour editing as well as trying to draw him out and get him to talk about writing in general and reading this piece. It was quite literally like pulling teeth to try to get him to answer questions. I must’ve done something right however because on Sunday morning, I woke up to a five Apple review from his mom. I suspect but that is going to be someone that I see again and I’m not looking forward to it.

Yesterday was my penultimate lesson with Alaina and I was curiously hesitant to ask her about whether she wants to renew the package. She is heading to Paris for a few weeks starting this week and I’m not sure that she will be able to continue with English lessons. It’s a shame because I would love to continue with her. I suspect however the reason that she’s going to Paris will not allow her to block off time for an English lesson once a week. I think I will wait until next eek to ask, I have had a two week hiatus from The Dutch student that I see on Mondays as it has been both school vacation and May holiday. I am busy trying to craft questions to ask him about his vacation as he is typically Dutch and never really forthcoming about what he did on any of his vacations. It is a quandary.

As suggested by my title, the week has also been quite difficult in terms of writing. I simply didn’t have the mental space this week to be able to write my own stuff. I find myself only wishing to read other people’s stuff. Which seems like a waste of time when you’re online with your writing friends and you’re not doing any writing. Still the discipline of getting online and at least being there on a Thursday night is important in itself because it’s still connects me to writing. I was able to do a little bit better on Sunday but was not entirely able to concentrate that day either. While I did some writing on Sunday, I also stressed about it it because I should’ve been lesson planning while I was writing. The discipline of being a writer can be sometimes very difficult, and his week was no exception.

I also had an MRI this week and will have a consultation with the doctor on Thursday. It was unfortunate because I was an idiot and opened up slots for VIPKid on Thursday having forgotten that my consultation was in person. So I had to send an email to the doctor and ask him if he could be a telephone consult. Thankfully he agreed and I opened up the rest of Thursday with the exception of the hour when he supposed to be calling me. Also this week I discovered that my computer, which is barely a year old, is having technical issues. Actually, It’s a problem of hardware. It seems that one of the ports on my Dell no longer function. I found this out on Friday morning when I was setting up my computer to teach. The upshot is that I cannot power my computer, use my headphones, and use my cooling laptop stand at the same time. But this is why I bought the expensive care package and Dell came out to me on Monday. I took the precaution of letting Alena know that I might have to change our lesson for Monday because I’m not sure what time the technician will come out. It has truly been a pins and needles kind of week for me here at Inkreadable.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Last Lingueo and a Preply Prank

Happy Koningsdag Or Kings day, from the Netherlands! It’s a uniquely Dutch holiday celebrating the Kings birthday. His official birthday, that is. When the Netherlands had a queen, they also celebrated Queens Day on 27 April. The streets swarm with people wearing orange, and setting up stalls to sell random old stuff to people walking around. It is the nation’s biggest flea market. The last King’s day wasn’t much of an affair as we were all in lockdown. One year later and we are still in a lockdown. This year, it will not be possible to wander around Amsterdam looking at people hocking their wares on the sidewalks, in the parks, and sometimes even from a canal boat. One year, dear reader, I even saw someone selling not a pair of shoes but a single shoe. I wonder to this day, if he ever sold it.

Over at Inkreadable, dear reader, it’s been a week of lasts. I had my last Lingueo lesson with Delphine and my last (for now) lesson at TEC with a student there. She says she wants to take more lessons with TC, but is unsure whether she wants private or group classes. I was honest and told her that she would do fairly well in a group class and recommended that she take the fluency course. It’s not particularly business focused but rather is more of a speaking course and I think that would be good for her. Delphine and I have agreed to keep in touch and maybe we will schedule some Skype conversations on occasion. I also scheduled my lessons with the nearly native speaking financial Executive who wants help with writing reports and business communication. We Had our first lesson yesterday and I think it went all right. Though I spent the first half hour feeling like I had pitched t too low. I did spend the weekend doing some extra prep and talking to her previous teacher. All things being equal, I should be able to maintain a fairly flexible attitude. We will have to see what happens with her once I start teaching in Amstelveen.

Speaking of Amstelveen, I sent all of my information and signed the contract for The Conversation Playground mid-week last week. So now it’s a waiting game. We are going to begin on 11 May and there is still no word as to the time. I prefer, (and have my fingers crossed for) starting at 2:20 and not 3:20. 2:20 will allow me to get there on my own and get back from there without having to rely on the owner of the company for rides. But I’m a little bit conflicted, because if I do ask for rides home at least, I can then offer my English Center client more flexibility. I am leaning towards getting to the school on Tuesdays on my own and then accepting a ride home after the class is over. We will have to see how it all works out.

Over at rPeply, things got kind of interesting mid week last week as I had a booking for Friday, 23 April at 9 PM. I contacted the student who asked me for my Skype as they wanted to do their trial lesson on that platform. . The student proceeded to make me an offer on Skype. She claimed that she did not need the English lessons from Preply and that her work was paying for them. She then said that she and I could set up lessons that she would confirm on Preply and when I got paid I would give her half the money from her lessons. Needless to say, that was a hard no from me and I also reported her to the company. I called it a prank in the title for the sake of alliteration but really, it’s fraud. And in the EU if she was found out then\n I’d be on the hook too. Yeah, no thanks.

There is still no word from Lexis as to whether we’re going to start courses in June and September but I am kind of busy doing research and prepping for that as well. I hope that that does turn into something because then we’re talking about real money. And possibly no VIPKid which is the goal.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

TEC Timing and a Games Gig

This week at Inkreadable, dear reader, started out pretty quiet and then ramped up to almost insane. While VIPKid remains the same, and with Lingueo wrapping up later this week, my schedule was going to get pretty empty. I still have my private clients but their packages are winding up and should finish sometime next month. I am not sure, or at least I cannot read, whether they’re going to renew. In any case, my private client will take the summer off which means six weeks. With me going to Greece in August it means that I won’t see him until mid September at the earliest. And while I think Alaina likes my lessons I’m not sure she wants to keep going. And it’s not yet the time to ask.

I have had a bunch of work from the English Center. One is a client who wants 10 lessons online and two lessons in person in Amstelveen, which I think the owner of the company is going to give her. Although when I talked to the student, she did say that she only wanted the in person lessons for a change of pace. If she wants to do them with me maybe I will head out there. I also have a second client with the company who has asked for 6 one hour lessons. We had our first lesson week before last on a Friday and two lessons on Tuesday and Friday last week. Our last three lessons are this week, we’ve already had one yesterday, we will have one today and we will have one on Friday. Instead of doing grammar, like I normally do, the student has tested at a C1 level and so I have been started using a lot of Linguahouse lessons with her. We also did a lesson on human resources and prepositions because she finds them confusing. I think the student will continue with me which will be great. I did however, make a mistake with The English Center. They offered me a client for 18 hours who is an executive and needs help with writing and the language of finance. All of which is fine except that they have waived their usual policy and have told the client that she can cancel with three hours notice with no penalty to her. And what that means for me is that I can’t charge her. Jasper rightly pointed out that the English Center should have offered compensation to the teacher for their flexibility. But of course, they did not say anything about that. I didn’t ask either. What’s more concerning to me is whether I’m going to be able to handle the timing of these 3 English Center clients, and the potential to teach for Lexis Amsterdam starting in June. But I will deal with that when I have to as it is not a sure thing by any means.

By far the most interesting events of the week was getting contacted by The Conversation Playground to confirm a teaching gig starting on 11 May and going through 7 July. I will be heading out to the middle of nowhere on Tuesday afternoons to teach English in the context of playing games. The pay is good and the owner of the company has offered to pick me up and drop me off. What they do is they have 12 kids between the ages of six and nine play games and speak English while doing it. The facilitator sets up a whiteboard where the kids can go and write the Dutch word that they don’t know in English but they are not allowed to speak Dutch for the whole hour. It’s an interesting concept, and there isn’t a lot of correction involved but I will be correcting three points that I hear through the games. I’m kind of excited by the possibility. It’s not something that I’ve ever done. I have gone to see how they conduct the lesson once. It was interesting. We will have to see if I’m up to the challenge as I haven’t facilitated a classroom of kids in years. And even then, I was teaching creative writing so there wasn’t a lot of classroom management. They were also English native speakers. It should be an interesting couple of months.

In other news, I’m headed next Monday for an MRI. It’s the first MRI to monitor my brain activity in three months. I will say that I have felt no changes and I’m not tripping or doing anything neurological that is weird. So I’m hopeful that there has been no change. Still no news on the cataract surgery and I’m kind of thinking that there won’t be for a little while. I hope it doesn’t conflict with my trip to Greece in August, because that will be difficult to try and change.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Linguahouse Love and a TEC Turnaround

While it was hard getting back into the swing of things on Tuesday last week after a break for Easter, there were a couple of game changers that made it much more interesting. Generally, when teaching, I try to build lessons that the students will like as all teachers do. But sometimes it’s quite hard to find lessons that will appeal to students who don’t really have many interests for which there is enough material for lesson building. My friend Regina, recommended a website called linguahouse.com that has lessons at all three levels of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) which is the way that English language ability is gaged here in Europe. I keep forgetting that I have access to the website but needed some material for Delphine over at Lingueo because nobody wants to be doing grammar all the time. I have done several lessons with her about artsand several lessons dealing with food, and they’ve been wonderful. I bought a year subscription and shared it with Regina whose own subscription had lapsed. If, dear reader you’re an English language teacher, I urge you to take a look at this website because it has great stuff that you can use as a base to build a lesson. For example, I particularly liked the lesson that I’ve taught from them on Easter. I learned just as much as my students.

As of today I will have four more lessons with Delphine at Lingueo. I am going to miss our lessons as they have been fun and engaging. One of the best things about teaching adults is that you become friends with your students. I think in the case of Delphine, Nickolas, and Maria Jose, we will keep in touch for quite a long time. My plan once everything is open and we are able to travel is to head to Paris to meet them in person.

I have been getting a little bit stressed out with the thought of the Lingueo lessons ending and nothing on the horizon from Preply. But things got interesting as I was able to snag two new students with the English Cnter. I had a lesson with a Dutch woman called Isabelle. She’s the student I was referring to above when I said it will be hard to find lessons that keep her engaged and interested. I have five lessons with her and she expects to be much more confident in English after those five lessons. I had to ask her point-blank if she thought she would be fluent in five lessons and thankfully she said that she did not expect fluency but just a greater understanding and confidence when speaking English. She was the one who also told me that while she likes to go to the gym outside there aren’t very many other interests that she has beyond hanging out with friends and eating out. I may be able to do something with eating out and possibly the idea of hanging out to teach a phrasal verb but without her liking things like art. It’s going to be very difficult to make lessons that interest her and engage her. Still, l I think I’m up to the challenge. The other TEC client is called Lily and I will have a lesson with her tomorrow. That’s for a package of 10 hours of both business focused and conversational English. I did something new with Isabelle, I created an intake test of my own and gave that in conjunction with getting Isabelle to tell me about how the English tenses work through the use of a table that I have found online. I think I’m going to do the same with my second client at TEC at least for the first lesson. This one’s a little harder because I’m actually sharing the student with Brenda who owns The English Center. Lily will take two in person lessons with her which means that I need to keep her informed of what I’ve been doing. I’ve done that before as we collaborated with students but it’s difficult because Brenda has a lot more experience than I do in teaching.

VIPkid continues to throw some surprises my way. The trial gods have forgotten me but the level seven and book report Gods have remembered me. I think I have had more one hour classes in the past week than ever in my career as a level seven teacher on the platform. Of course, there are the placeholders who cancel but I noticed that the sales team is on top of it and they have filled open slots with other classes. While it doesn’t make up for the fact that my classes are only about 50% booked, It gives me hope that the 120 thousand teachers that are on the platform are not all teaching full-time. And that most of them have gone back to school.

Also this week was my best writing day yet, with Thursday being very productive. In general, I’m finding that the Thursday and Sunday schedules work for me and 3 1/2 hours of writing a week is not bad at all. I hope this trend continues. We’ve also been talking with the Writers Group about charging for the advertising that we do on meet up for new members. I have been running the Washington Creative Writers Club since 2012 and charging members $12 a year to be in the group. You get a free trial meeting and if you like us then you have to pay. The problem is, people haven’t been paying since 2017 when I left For the Netherlands. We do have a lot of money in the bank account but it’s not going to last forever if nobody pays for the dues and the cost of Meetup is $200 a year which is not insignificant to me. So I sent an email to my former co-organizer and now organizer of the group asking what we should do. They asked me to give them a week to decide but all indications are that we’re going to delete the group and leave Meetup. I need to figure out if the Dutch group is willing to pay for the Meetup site and whether it’s worth it for us to stay on Meetup for the Dutch group. Because that would be one group running at $200 a year and not two. It’s a dilemma indeed.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Course Collaboration and Possible Plotting

This week, dear reader, was a short one here at Inkreadable. I had decided to take the Easter weekend off, including Monday, ostensibly to take a break. But in the middle of last week, a chance conversation changed everything.

In my last post, I told you that I had been doing some editing work for a former student, which while unpaid, could have led to a paid commission from one of their classmates. That did not turn into anything, alas. Not only that but I did not hear from my student about the edits at all. Not even a thank you. I also did some editing for my friend Despina over at Lexus Amsterdam. As we are friends as well as colleagues of sorts she came over and we were talking about our trials and tribulations in the time of pandemic trying to teach our languages. I casually mentioned that I was surprised that she didn’t have any group lessons for English and apparently, it blew her mind. She had simply never thought of it. So in a back-and-forth that would extend for the whole week, we decided to start two different fluency courses and one course for business English. They are going to run in the summer over eight weeks And at the end of September when I am back from my travels in Greece. I am quite excited for the possibilities and have spent quite a lot of time looking at different books and how best to structure all three of them.

With my private clients off the schedule for Monday, I took the time to take a walk but also do more planning and plotting for the syllabus for the courses. That is in addition to my normal lesson planning for my private clients. I am quite pleased at least terms of scheduling. My Monday private client is taking the week off but Alena and I have switched the lesson to later today, and we were going to have the lesson outside but the weather has been uncooperative since yesterday. In fact, my iPhone weather app had been calling for snow for both yesterday and today. Needless to say there will be other lessons in the package where we can meet in person.

Over on the Preply platform, things have ground to a halt. My one and only student says she has Covid and so we have suspended lessons until she feels better. I am also trying not to be a cynic and am choosing to believe that she is telling the truth. After all, she has already paid for the lesson so why would she then not want to take them. My plan is to contact her in a couple of weeks so that I can figure out my own schedule. After all, if I’m not gonna be teaching her on Tuesdays or Thursdays I can be teaching someone else.

In VIPKid world, I am basically only teaching the students who ask for priority booking requests. I am not really getting any new students nor am I getting any trials. It seems to be an up-and-down kind of thing. A lot of my teacher colleagues on the European Facebook group that I run, do have more consistent bookings but have also noticed that there is an up and down quality to the bookings as of late.

Writingwise, things proceed well. I am attending the Sunday Write-Ins and the Thursday Write-Ins quite regularly. I have an interesting dilemma in terms of plotting because my brain is working quite a bit faster than my fingers can type. The ideas are coming fast and furious and I’m not quite sure how to handle all of that creativity. It’s actually quite a good problem to have. But I will say that I was rather annoyed at some of the members of my group who either could not figure out how to get in to the meeting on Saturday, even though I have never had any trouble, or compounded the drama by giving me grief. The short version is that a new member of the group wanted me to post the link to the meetup website, which I refuse to do because I don’t want that many people on Zoom. I did explain how to access the meetings form WhatsApp but that seemed to be too much for the person to understand so I gave in. I duly set up recurring meetings in Zoom and sent emails to the people who requested them. I was touched that a VIPKid teacher friend who is also in the group, but is in the states now was following the What’sApp drama and wrote me privately to offer caring and support as it is a lot of work to keep track of. Managing the differing personalities in the group can be quite a challenge.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.